Buddy Ryan didn't have much time to talk. A veterinarian had just arrived at Ryan's horse farm in Shelbyville, Ky., and the old man wanted to greet him — but not before registering a prediction for Sunday's AFC title game, which pits his son Rex's New York Jets against the favored Steelers.
"I think the Jets will win," the elder Ryan said.
"Because they have a great defense and an excellent quarterback."
Buddy Ryan invented the fabled "46" defense as the Chicago Bears' coordinator and presided over one of the great units of all-time in 1985. In his opinion — and he never was afraid to share one — nothing his Bears did could top last weekend in Foxborough, Mass., when the Jets humbled a New England offense that had scored 30-plus points in an NFL-record nine consecutive games.
"Greatest defense I ever saw," Ryan said. "Everybody had (Tom) Brady winning the Super Bowl. The Jets have put out two great quarterbacks (Brady and Peyton Manning)."
Next up: Ben Roethlisberger. What does Ryan think of him?
"He has a good football team," Ryan said. "Didn't they win four games without him?"
Actually, the Steelers started 3-1 without Roethlisberger behind their own stifling defense.
Ryan respects Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, though it doesn't sound as if he buys into the widely accepted notion that LeBeau invented the zone blitz.
That defense, ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski says in his new book "The Games that Changed the Game," might see "designated linemen drop into coverage instead of rushing the passer, while selected linebackers or defensive backs switch from their traditional coverage responsibilities to apply pocket pressure."
"I did it all the time," Ryan said.
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